3 Key Parenting Principles that Shaped our Homeschool

Learn three key parenting tips to be successful with your homeschool. You can have a peaceful homeschool experience with these 3 principles.

Child writing on paper at home

by Belinda Letchford

When we start homeschooling we really have no idea of what is ahead of us. As we gain some experience we realise that homeschooling becomes a part of our family lifestyle. I think our parenting style affects our homeschooling and our homeschooling affects our parenting! Early in our parenting journey we came across Childwise and as our parenting skills became intentional and relational we started to see how that impacted our homeschooling.

When it comes to our kids there is never a one size fits all mentality – whether we are looking at parenting resources or homeschooling choices. We have to be thinking parents; we have to be thinking homeschoolers. As we look at books and courses such as Childwise, that gives us perspective and information we must look for the principles and let them direct our choices. Our practices may look different than the book, it may look different than our class leader, it may even look different for each of our children. This is called context (and a concept well entrenched in the Childwise mindset). A significant check is to see that we are living by principles not copying practices. Finding the principles behind the practices is as relevant to homeschooling as it is for our parenting.

Being Childwise consolidated parenting principles for Peter and me to think about, refer to, build on, and apply. Today I’m sharing three key principles that shaped our family and therefore shaped our homeschooling. And this idea alone is pivotal in my thinking: Our homeschool is only as strong as our parenting.

  1. Family Life is Parent Directed
  2. Routine is a tool that serves the family
  3. Parents are to teach their children right from wrong.
  4. (bonus download) Discipline for the Homeschool Hours
  5. 3 key principles that shaped our homeschool pinnable image

3 Key Parenting Principles that Shaped our Homeschool

1–Family Life is Parent Directed (and so too is our Homeschool)

This is a principle that is taught from the Babywise series with parent directed feeding. This is where a parent with the knowledge and understanding of the nutrition that a baby needs, along with the process of the digestive system, and the rhythm of metabolism – balances the feeding, wake time and sleeping of a baby. This establishes healthy eating, activity time, and sleeping in a young child. It is based on the principle that a parent is given the responsibility of the baby, and as the baby grows – the parent continues with the responsibility of maintaining health and well-being of their child.

When we put on our homeschooling hat – this principle looks like: the parent with the knowledge and understanding of the education needs and the uniqueness of their child, shapes the direction and experiences to educate each of their children.

A simple way of saying this is: mum and dad decide, not the child; the parent is in charge, the parent has responsibility, the parent knows best. This is in contrast to a demand feeding way – which says the child knows best.

There are homeschooling philosophies which shape how people homeschool that put the child as the key decision maker. Though we shaped our homeschooling choices to enhance the individual strengths and weaknesses, we held to the principle that parent decides.

I took this responsibility very seriously. We are mistaken if we take this to mean that we dictate or lord it over our kids – in any sphere of their life. It is instead, a principle that allows the maturity, wisdom, experience of the parent to balance education goals and the individual child’s needs. To this end, we created a parent directed but child aware homeschool. (Creating a Unique Education)

2–Routine is a Tool that Serves the Family (and our homeschooling)

Once again the principle that routine is a tool that serves the family is introduced in the Babywise books. Parents shape their child’s routine from a young age based on the knowledge of what is best for the child, and for the family. The routine has a purpose – it is not an end in and of itself.

The key with having a routine is that we see it as a tool that serves the family rather than a rule that we live by. A routine helps us achieve the things that we want to achieve. Depending on the stage of our family, a routine helps us balance the baby’s feeding needs with the mum’s ability to make milk, a routine helps us give time to each of our children regardless of their ages, a routine helps us find the time necessary to prioritise our marriage relationship and to get the housework done (even if it is the bare minimum!)

A routine is not connected to the clock, that would be a schedule. I like to see my routine as a sequence of events that helps us live a productive family life in harmony with all members.

The biggest benefit of having a routine in our homeschooling time was that we could balance all the needs of all the people in our family – spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual, and physical needs. When we had little children, a routine gave me more control of who was doing what when, which meant we could make the most of the time the little ones slept or napped, and conversely we could make the most of the time the older ones were studying to train the younger ones in self control and focusing activities.

When I planned out our routine (that was flexible to meet our real needs) it meant that we kept homeschooling – or education experiences – in the right balance with all the other things we were doing in our family. I didn’t want to recreate school in our home, so a routine helped me be aware of the other activities we wanted to make time for. A routine held all the activities together – helping us achieve the goals we had for our family.

3–Parents (and Homeschoolers) are to Raise Morally Responsible Adults

Family life is the setting where parents can teach self-control, responsibility and respect – three of the first and most significant character responses our children need to learn. When we add homeschooling to the mix, we increase the hours we have with our children therefore increasing the opportunities we have to teach and consolidate these and other character traits.

One of the principles of Childwise is: It is not enough to teach your children how to act morally; they must learn how to think morally. This means they need to be taught the what and why of our values, and then given plenty of opportunity to practice.

Teaching these values (self control, responsibility, respect to start with) began when the kids were very young – with folding their hands when they were tempted to lose self control, with learning to come when their name was called, and to pick up their toys and to use their words when trying to communicate. But once they entered ‘school years’ the character lessons continued. It takes self control to focus and persevere when lessons are hard, it takes responsibility to continue studying when Mum steps outside to do the laundry, and it takes respect to listen carefully as Mum explains a lesson.

If we aren’t diligent and focused ourselves, academic lessons such as science, history and mathematics can squeeze out the time we have to focus on character. This was one of our primary objectives in homeschooling our children. We wanted them to be able to live their life with moral integrity, both as children and as adults in later years

Character is the quality of our response to people or circumstances – so very relevant to talk about with our kids regardless of what activity they are doing – going to church, doing the grocery shop, studying our math or science or going to a friend’s birthday party. Homeschooling simply gave us more situations throughout the day to teach, train and expect our kids to make choices based on our moral values (aka character). (Read: How to Teach your Kids Character)

It’s never about Perfect Families

In conclusion, another principle Childwise teaches is: Begin as you mean to go on – this sets the framework to be intentional. This phrase means we need to know where we want to go, to be conscious of the big picture so you can set your intent and be consistent. Though consistency paints a picture of perfect – that is not a realistic expectation – it has to be balanced with the idea of ‘being characterised by’. I want to be characterised by dealing with my children’s attitudes, by being a parent who listens to my child’s heart cry, and who values them as a person above my curriculum and lesson plans. I want them to be characterised by being respectful, responsible and showing self control. I want them to be characterised by being curious of the world around them, of being aware of the needs around them, of being willing to pitch in and be a part of the solution. We will never reach the standard of perfect – but that has never been my expectation. I want to discipline myself to start as I want to go on…. so that our family life is giving our children every opportunity that is possible for them to grow to be morally mature young people who love God, who know their gifts and abilities and are passionate to use them to love others.

Download your copy of Discipline Cheat Sheet to continue your heart focus discipline in your Homeschool Hours

Belinda Letchford

Belinda blogs at Live life with your Kids – where she encourages families to be intentional and relational as they build a strong family. Belinda is married to Peter, lives in Australia and homeschooled their 4 kids – Joshua, Jessica, Nomi and Daniel – though they have all graduated now and moving on into their adult lives. The youngest about to leave home leaving Belinda and Peter in an empty house! Belinda continues to encourage the hearts of mums and dads with writing and speaking at conferences. Other than that Belinda is learning to balance her time between redecorating (after homeschooling for 20 years), scrapbooking and sewing, connecting with women in her home town. But of course, it doesn’t matter how old your kids are – they always come first.

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